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Lot Details

Signed and dated 'Souza 57' (upper left)
Further signed, titled and dated, 'F.N. SOUZA / PROFILE - 1957' (on the reverse)
Bearing original Gallery One label (on the reverse)

Acquired from Gallery One, London by Mr. Milnes Smith (Thence by descent)
Grosvenor Gallery, London
Sotheby's / Lot 54 / Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art / 7 October 2014
Private collection, Dubai

Souza 57, Gallery One, London, 1957
Souza 57 exhibition catalogue (illustrated)

With masterly skills as a draughtsman and as a painter, Francis Newton Souza’s remarkable ability of cultivating good form remains intrinsic to his aesthetic sensibility. His ability to disorganize the image of a human face without resorting to total abstraction and losing the vital aspect of the portraiture is distinctive.

Aside from the nudes, which is a significant part of his oeuvre, Souza is famous for his heads, especially those he executed in the 1950 and 60s - his formative decade. Profile, painted in 1957 is typical of the portraits the artist was producing during this period. The two-dimensional head and torso is monumental like with his other works. The area outside the ‘head’, as in the picture is prepared quite perfunctorily and devoid of context since the figure itself is the only real focus. The eyeless sockets are placed high in the elongated face while the exaggerated nose appears to be a reference to a by-gone era. The wrinkle under the eye and the gnashing teeth produce a menacing facial image. The arrows to the side of the neck refer to afflictions. The head has a distinctive religious countenance combined with elaborate vestment illustrating the artist's fascination with martyrdom or of those ordained for religious duties. Notable is the absence of Souza's signature cross-hatching.

The influence of Spanish Romanesque can be observed in Souza's use of thick black outlines enclosing flat planes of colour. Like Picasso his imagery is stylized and his themes are repetitive but Souza '... is a painter who has developed an imagery which is strongly his own. Perhaps for these reasons he has never yielded easily to the influence of other artists. The result is a synthesis of traditions and styles, and at the same time the evolution of an original talent which has stolen its greatest powers from no one.' (E. Mullins, Souza, 1962, pg.45)

Francis Newton Souza

(1924 - 2002)
Born in 1924 in Saligao, Goa, Souza was expelled from the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, in 1942 for taking part in the ‘Quit India’ freedom movement. He went on to found the Progressive Artist’s Group in 1948, before leaving for London a year later. In 1955 Souza held a one-man show at Gallery One in London and also had his autobiographical essay ‘Nirvana of a Maggot’ published. He was awarded the John Moore Prize at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool in 1957 and received an Italian Government Scholarship in 1960. In 1959 a collection of his autobiographical essays, ‘Words and Lines’, was published, and in 1962 a monograph on his work by Edwin Mullins was published as well. In 1967 Souza migrated to New York where he received the Guggenheim International Award. Two retrospectives of his work were organized by Art Heritage, New Delhi, in 1986 and 1996. Souza also participated in a work-live programme in Los Angeles, hosted by Saffronart in 2001. Souza passed away in Mumbai 2002. Some important posthumous exhibition of his work include, ‘F.N. Souza’ at Saffronart and Grosvenor Gallery, New York, in 2008; ‘F.N. Souza: Religion & Erotica’ at Tate Britain, London, in 2005-06; ‘Self-Portrait: Renaissance to Contemporary’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 2005; and ‘Francis Newton Souza’ at Saffronart and Grosvenor Gallery, New York and London, in 2005.